North Queensland Cowboys rugby league players Ashley Graham and Matt Bowen may have it, others may not – it is the innate ability of some rugby league players to predict an opponent’s change of direction.
The ‘anticipation’ ability is the subject of a James Cook University Sport and Exercise Science student’s Honours project.
Sport and Exercise Science student Jonathon Connor was recently awarded the 2012 Toyota North Queensland Cowboys-James Cook University Honours scholarship to investigate the topic.
Mr Connor said his project, Anticipatory Skills of the stepping manoeuvre in rugby league players, involved identifying whether elite rugby league players could predict an opponent’s change of direction, or "step".
Mr Connor said the study would help determine who had this ability.
“It will hopefully give evidence as to whether some players have an innate ability to extract information, or ‘read the game’ in layman’s terms,” he said.
“This will then be compared to the under-20 players and novices who have never played before.”
Mr Connor said he would be using an eye tracker to measure a player’s focus and performance.
Eye tracking is the process of measuring either the point of gaze or the motion of the eye relative to the head.
The eye tracker is small camera fitted to the head, similar to glasses, which measures eye movement.
Eye trackers are used in research on the visual system, in psychology, in cognitive linguistics and in product design.
Mr Connor said he hoped to identify whether there was a link between a player’s ‘quiet eye’, or ability to focus their attention and extract information, and their ability to predict the opponent’s change of direction
“More importantly, I hope to do further research to identify where the playmakers are looking and how long it takes them to identify a potential hole in the opposition’s defence.
“Also, I’ll be looking at research into where centres or fullbacks are looking right before they make a break through the opposition’s defence.”
Mr Connor said he was grateful for the Cowboys-JCU scholarship which is awarded annually by the Cowboys coaching staff to a project deemed significant to the playing squad’s performance.
“I plan to have results by the end of August to present to the Cowboys, and ready for publication in about March.”
Mr Connor said to his knowledge there had been some research using eye-trackers, but none within rugby league.
Issued 29 May 2012
Media enquiries: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586